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An Outdoor Living

LB2017.19.41675

It’s November, and we’re in the later part of deer hunting season in Maine. Here’s a tip of the hat to those who hunt and fish. The sporting industry is vibrant in our state, and given the millions of acres of pristine ponds, lakes, and woods here, and the endless miles of rivers and streams, it was inevitable that people with expert knowledge of these environs would create an economic niche for themselves: the Maine Guides. While people have hired these services out for two hundred years or more, Maine didn’t formalize the practice until a piece of 1897 legislation began to require registration. The first registered Maine Guide was a woman: Cornilia Thurza Crosby, known colloquially as Fly Rod, was also an early popularizer of sporting in Maine. (Wikipedia, “Maine Guides”, n.d.)

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When homegrown talent Kosti Ruohomaa, who exalted Maine folk life throughout his career as a photojournalist, visited Maine Guide Ed DeMar in 1958, DeMar was an elder statesman of the profession. A native of the Rangeley Lakes region, he was intimately familiar with the woods and waters there and a born steward of wild places. As expected, he knew where to find salmon and deer, was a wily storyteller, a friend to his fellow guides and clients but also to the wardens and state wildlife professionals who sustained the regulatory boundaries he operated within.

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DeMar was a longtime officer in the Rangeley Lakes Guide Association, a sort of local workers’ union for old fashioned New England conservatives. The Association established pay ranges for guides and outlined standards for working conditions. At the time, they represented around 130 guides.

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His propensity for the outdoors apparently dominated his character: in the off season, he sometimes signed on with logging companies and spent his winters at lumber camps in Maine’s north woods.

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Guiding almost always selected for competence. Then as now, the job required not only expertise in the wilderness, but a strong moral backbone, a quick head, a radar for danger, confidence in one’s leadership, charisma, and an unflappable sense of humor.

Their excellence garnered benefits. Their clients, known in the trade as “sports”, customarily returned to the same guide year after year, cementing long and friendly connections. They often sent gifts to their guides from back at home. They tended to be successful professionals, who didn’t mind paying $150 a day to be shown to hunting and fishing grounds or to pay the equivalent of $180 per pound for fish they caught themselves.

To all who are hunting this season: keep safe, enjoy the woods, and have fun.

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Frederick Ross Sweetser

Fredrick Ross Sweetser Collection #LB2003.61.101

By David Ruberti

I have just finished another one of our small photo collections to add to our on-line database. Not only does this chronicle the photographer’s family but his home, the town of Searsport, where I work and many of you live, and its sea-going families. This is a collection of 400 images by amateur photographer Frederick Ross Sweetser who was born in Searsport, Maine on May 15, 1853, the son of Capt. Jeremiah and Susan (French) Sweetser. In his youth he accompanied his father on long sea voyages. His first music lessons were in Holland and very early in his life he showed a very decided talent for music and it became his life’s work. For 44 years he taught at Boxwood Manor, a school for young ladies in Old Lyme, Conn.

He accompanied innumerable church and concert singers. He numbered among his friends many of the high-ups in musical, literary and theatrical circles. He enjoyed a lifelong friendship with the famous opera star Anna Louise Cary.

Joanna Colcord Collection #LB2003.61.3

He was exceedingly fond of his native town and when vacation time came, he never failed to come back to Searsport, where he spent many happy summers at the old homestead, a dignified old Colonial brick house set picturesquely on a hill back from Main Street.
When at home in the summer he took an active part in the musical life of the town and often put on operas and other musical entertainments for the benefit of various organizations. In 1918 he retired to spend the remainder of his life in Searsport. He organized a large piano class in Belfast, where he had a studio, usually returning to Searsport on the weekends.

His sister, Jane “Jennie” Sweetser married the noted merchant ship captain Lincoln Alden Colcord, who sailed from Searsport on numerous ships over his lifetime of going to sea. Capt. Colcord and his wife Jane embarked on a three-year voyage aboard the sailing vessel Charlotte A. Littlefield on their wedding night, June 4, 1881.

Joanna Colcord Collection #LB2003.61.103

They were the parents of noted writer and journalist Lincoln Ross Colcord, and pioneering social worker and writer Joanna Carver Colcord, both of which were born at sea aboard the Charlotte Littlefield.

It is assumed that “Frank” Sweetser’s niece, Joanna acquired her love of photography from her uncle. The Joanna Colcord collection at the museum consists of 700 glass plate negatives, an annotated scrapbook of her own photos, and postcards of the places she visited in her travels.

Sweetser died on April 15, 1924 and his funeral was held at the First Congregational Church here in Searsport.

Frederick Ross Sweetser Collection

Joanna Colcord Collection

A Long Look Back

pictured L to R: Dave Lowell; Gene Dalrymple; PMM’s Matt Wheeler

Gene Dalrymple would probably not be considered a native by some people’s reckoning, but his 97-year association with Marshall Point in Port Clyde, Maine, makes him a local by ours. Dalrymple grew up outside of Boston, but his maternal grandfather was the last keeper at Marshall Point Light during the US Lighthouse Service era; his tenure there (July 1874 to May 1919) was the longest in the history of the Service. Dalrymple’s mother was born in the lighthouse; his family were at home when the original mortared stone keeper’s house was struck by lightning in 1895 (there were no casualties but the building itself, which had to be replaced).

Gene himself was born in the cottage pictured above, which was built on land his grandfather bought on the Point. He travelled with his mother by steamer from Boston each summer to spend the warm months at Port Clyde. A historian by nature, Gene has an ear for stories and a keen interest in the people around him. Throughout his adulthood, as a dentist whose primary residence was in Camden, Dalrymple continued to return to this peninsula, a working port and a summer haunt for many, including luminaries such as the three generations of painterly Wyeths. Dave Lowell, a former Tenants Harbor resident and a friend of PMM’s, made Gene’s acquaintance over a period of years; he encouraged a meeting, knowing that our photography holdings included a generous lode of old Port Clyde images. Since many of our images are undescribed, we jumped at the chance to hear more about this richly-storied place. Starting in 2013, with Gene’s guidance and with the enthusiastic participation of several other local elders, we began to piece together a narrative.

The effort has brought us to the point of planning a Port Clyde photo book. The book will include wide views of the harbor with labels identifying historic homes and businesses, street scenes, photos of local buildings—homes, hotels, businesses which are local landmarks or are no longer standing—and waterfront views. Its captions will recall a thriving center of commerce and the characters who made the place lively and memorable. There’s still a lot of work to do, including further interviews with additional sources. As Gene exhorts us, “This thing has got to be 110% right”. We agree. The prospect of revealing this world before it succumbs to the blurring of time excites us. Stay tuned.

Everything Isn’t on the Internet

by Deborah Nowers

This is my pitch for the library. We received a request for information on Joseph Blanchard Ames who was the grandfather or great-grandfather of the requester’s grandmother Marie Donaldson Ames. He requested genealogy of Joseph Blanchard Ames in order to determine how the family got from Marshfield, MA to Maine.
 
Using the FindAGrave website, one of my colleagues found that Joseph Blanchard Ames was the father of Marie Donaldson Ames. Joseph was born in Searsport on January 30, 1846–that was the Maine connection—and died in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1915. His parents were Elisha Ames born in Marshfield, Massachusetts and Orilla B. (Parker) Ames born 12 August 1823 in Maine (town unknown). He speculated that the parents had lived in Maine at some time and then moved to Massachusetts. That was as far as he got before he ran out of time.

The research question became, “Why was Joseph born in Searsport?” Information on the internet provided no help. Because I knew there was an Ames family on Islesboro, I looked there. First searching the library’s copy of John Pendleton Farrow’s History of Islesborough., Maine. The Ames family came from Marshfield, Massachusetts, so probably relatives, but Elisha was not included. Since Joseph was reportedly born in Searsport, I next checked the published vital records in the reading room. It did not include a record of his birth. I had reached a dead end on Ames.

I then decided to search for his mother, since she was the one born in Maine. I hoped her uncommon first name—Orilla—would help. I went back to Searsport. There was no listing for Orilla B. Parker in the index, but Orilla B. Park was there. There was just one entry, in the Church Members in Searsport, “Orilla B. Park Dist [dismissed] to Mt. Vernon Chh Boston Aug. 25, 1844.” Because Searsport was incorporated after Orilla’s birth, I then searched in Prospect, Searsport’s mother town. And there she was in the published Vital Records, “Orilla B. daughter of Mr. Joseph & Mrs. Catherine Park born Augt. 17th 1824.” The transcription on FindAGrave had a different last name and birth date, but with no photograph of the stone it is unclear where the error lies. Joseph and Catherine’s marriage record in Prospect gives her maiden name Griffin.

From the records, we can make a narrative. Orilla B. Park was born in Prospect to Joseph and Catherine (Griffin) Park. The family likely lived on the west side of Prospect that became part of Searsport. Orilla was a member of the Church in Searsport when she was dismissed to the Mt. Vernon Church in Boston in 1844. The next year on April 3, 1845, she married Elisha Ames in Boston. It is likely that she was with or went home to her mother to have her baby Joseph Blanchard in January 1846.

Although many genealogical records have been transcribed and digitized for the internet, many have not. Small towns in Maine will be low priority for these efforts for some time. The record you need, may well exist only in a book, likely in a library. The Collection in the Phillips Library, had all I needed to answer this query.

Search for St. Frances

Ship ST. FRANCES, Applebee Collection, LB1980.222.407

By John Golden

Recently we received a request from a gentleman who is writing an article about the ST. FRANCES or ST. FRANCIS.
 
An initial search of an online local database of ships built in Maine didn’t reveal any record of a ship named ST. FRANCES or ST. FRANCIS.

Moving on to another resource, Merchant Sail, by William Armstrong Fairburn, there indeed was a ship named ST. FRANCES built in May of 1882 by John McDonald in Bath, Maine. The paragraph went on to explain that the ST. FRANCES was a wooden ship of 1,898 tons and three masts built for Flint and Co. (New York). The ship was sold in October 1899 to the city of San Francisco. It was resold to salmon packers in 1909 and finally wrecked in Alaska, while engaged in this trade on May 14, 1917 at the age of thirty-five.

Checking another resource, Record of American and Foreign Shipping, confirmed the basic information about the ship (owner and size and date built).

Merchant Sail, in a later volume had a biography of John McDonald which listed the ship as the ST. FRANCIS. The ship described was the same one as the specifications and date of construction matched. It appears that the spelling of the ship’s name was probably misspelled in some documentation.

Finding What is Hiding in Plain Sight

by Deborah Nowers

This is a story that starts and ends with PMM… well, it never ends, because it is a genealogy story.

It began with a request to look at the history of the Fowler-True-Ross House at the museum. I described that project in the first issue of this newsletter last spring. An early owner of the property where the Fowler house now stands–and where the Phillips Library was built—was Robert Lord Sargent. He was a land speculator and sold the property after a year. My research might have ended here if internet sources hadn’t listed his wife as Mary Dodge, who—as only a family researcher would know—was my husband Henry’s first cousin 5 times removed. I had been researching the descendants in that family.

This Mary Dodge appeared again as I prepared a sketch of her father Simon Dodge, Jr. for the Maine Genealogical Society’s project to document all individuals enumerated in Maine for the first U. S. Census in 1790. The sketch would outline the head of household and identify his or her spouse and children. The History of Islesborough, where the Dodges lived, indicated that Simon’s daughter Mary married “_____ Sargent.” Someone had written “Robert L.” in the copy at the Belfast Library. Now there was a challenge no genealogist could ignore. Could I prove it was Robert Lord Sargent? That search involved looking at every vital record I could find on the family in Prospect (now Searsport), Belfast and Monroe. Deeds documented his purchase and sale of land and often included his wife Mary. U. S. Census records for 1800 in Prospect, 1810 and 1820 in Belfast, and 1830 and 1840 in Monroe showed the family’s movement, but only the head of household listed by name.

Naming patterns often give hints to unknown family connections. Robert and Mary named children for themselves—Robert and Polly and for his father—Winthrop. More helpful was two daughters named Experience—the name of Mary Dodge’s oldest sister—and Noah D., her oldest brother.

I tried looking at Robert’s life for some hint. From the deeds, it was clear he was buying and selling land. He was referred to as “Deacon” in 1814 when his eldest daughter died in Belfast. An internet search turned up a transcript of a letter Robert had written to his son Winthrop and family in 1831 from Mobile, Alabama. He is clearly in financial trouble and was not expecting to see them again. “When we Shall meet togher again none knows but the LORD. If you wish to see me your father Remember you must Ask leave of GOD But let us be contened we shall Se and know one another in a nother State of Existence where my hopes and wishes will be fully satisfied forever.” He went on to say that he had gifts for Moses, Noah and Johnson, but “I have not have Cash Enough to come home as i whant to.” He also refers to his debts in Maine. “Pray for me and be kind to your mother. I send my Love to hir and you all tell Mr. Alline and all I owe that I have hopes to come home able to pay them of before I Die.”

It is not common to see a long letter from 1831 that shows the personality of the research subject and I was delighted. I tried to reach the person who had posted the transcript. I received no reply and filed the information away. Unfortunately, I was no closer to identifying Robert’s wife Mary.

I did wonder if Robert had returned. He was enumerated in Monroe with Mary in the 1840 census, but I know from other families, that he may not have been living there. Mary is enumerated in 1850 with her daughter Experience Knight, so he had likely died by then. Mary died in 1851. The Republican Journal published a death notice on 7 March 1851 and her gravestone stands in Mt. Rest Cemetery in Monroe.

This daughter Experience was the key to Identifying Mary’s family. It gave me my only piece of documentation. Twice married Experience (Sargent) (Knight) Curtis died in Monroe 11 February 1901. Her death certificate lists the names of her parents—Robert Sargent and Mary Dodge. Although it is not a primary document, I finally had some actual documentation from the family. I was satisfied.

This project also demonstrates my weakness as a researcher; my failure to seek out every possible source. I had used the vital records in the Phillips Library, the Jones Collection of records, published histories, and the information on the Fowler House. I had searched the Hancock and Waldo County Deeds and the U.S. Census. But I hadn’t looked really close at hand, at the Phillips Library “Family Boxes.” There in the “S” box was a folder for Thomas W. Sargent. In the folder, carefully sleeved in plastic was Robert’s letter to his family from 1831. It wouldn’t have helped in my search for Mary’s maiden name, but I could make corrections to the transcript. It also shows the material that is available to enrich our understanding of the early local families. I won’t neglect those boxes in the future!

Mutiny on the Bangalore?

Captain Frank Carver

John Golden, PMM Library Researcher

In mid-November, a gentleman from Pasadena, CA stopped by the Library and inquired about a Frank Carver, master of the ship BANGALORE.  Captain Carver was a long lost relative.

It seems that the family legend had it that Captain Carver was sailing to Singapore in 1897 when there was a mutiny on board the Bangalore led by the First Mate.  The legend continues that Carver physically threw the 1st Mate overboard and ended the mutiny.  Upon arriving at their destination of Singapore, Carver was stripped of command by the ship’s owners because of his actions.  Carver then continued on to Seattle and eventually California where his family ran a dairy farm.  Rumor has it that Carver spent much of his days imbibing at the local saloon and was a bit of a holy terror to his grandchildren.

Bangalore

The Carvers had a history in Searsport so it was pretty easy to find information on Frank.  Captain Carver died in Artesia, California on May 6, 1939 at the age of 76 years.  On March 6 of that year, he and his wife Nettie celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary.  Captain Carver’s obituary listed his many voyages and ships.  The obituary’s final paragraph states “The captain’s last command was the steel three sky-sail-yard ship, Bangalore, in which he went from New York to Java, Manila and London.  The Bangalore, later an American ship, was then under British flag and after completing his voyage in her, Captain Carver retired from sea life.”  Another obituary from the Artesia News states that “In 1895 the family came to Artesia where Mrs. Carver’s father and mother had purchased the home on Pioneer Blvd., where they have lived most of the years since.  In 1896, leaving the family in Artesia, he made his last voyage on the British Clipper, Bangalore, from New York to the Philippine Islands and home.”  Neither obituary made mention of any mutiny.  Researching the ship’s history we could find no indication of any mutiny during it’s time at sea.  The ship was lost at sea in 1908 carrying a load of coal from Norfolk, VA to Honolulu.

The BANGALORE itself had a history tied to Searsport.  A number of Searsport folks bought the vessel and established the Maine Navigation Company in 1896.  In addition to Frank Carver, her Searsport captains were Albert N. Blanchard, 1897-1898, 1900, 1901-1904, 1905, 1906;  and Phineas Banning Blanchard 1903-1908.  The BANGALORE was lost in a collision at sea in 1908.

NOTE:  There is a scale model of the BANGALORE in the lobby of the Stephen Phillips Library, as well as three paintings, eleven photographs and a set of her plans in the Museum collection.

Research in the Stephen Phillips Memorial Library

Cipperly Good dives into the local community records and bound Republican Journals.

Cipperly Good dives into the local community records and bound Republican Journals.

By Deborah Nowers, Library Research Volunteer

The Stephen Phillips Memorial Library is a hidden gem on Church Street. The library is a research non-circulating collection that includes information not easily found other places.  The library is open Tuesday through Friday from 9 am to 1 pm with volunteer researchers who like to dig into the collections.  It is best to call ahead, 207-548-2529 x212 or email libraryresearcher@pmm-maine.org, to be sure we will be there and give us an idea of what you are seeking.

As you would expect, we have books! In addition to books on a variety of maritime subjects, the collection includes vital record books, genealogies and town histories from all over New England and Eastern Canada.
  
There are also extensive genealogical collections that include the research files of a number of prominent local researchers—the largest from Priscilla Alden Jones.  The finding aid for the genealogical collections, include over 1200 family names in six collections.  In addition thirty-eight family boxes have folders with surprises including family photographs, bible records, wedding invitations….whatever a family might have saved.  There are finding aides for these boxes, but browsing is much more fun.

If you are interested in Searsport history, the collection includes census records, gravestone transcriptions, town records including town reports and tax records.  Want to track how old your house is or who lived in it?  We have answers!

We also have real bound copies of the Belfast Republican Journal beginning with its first issue in 1820.  These are very fragile, so we provide microfilm copies of the paper.  We feel it is our mission to preserve, and provide access, this historical perspective of life in Waldo County.  One of our researchers is transcribing the shipping news from this paper, and we all benefit from his thorough combing of the paper’s contents.

Finally, we are a marine museum and the marine collections are a treasure trove for research.  The largest collection is the Colcord Papers, 76 boxes full of letters, documents, logs and first person accounts from 1825 to 1903 related to the Colcords, a Searsport seafaring family.  The sixteen boxes of the Witherle Collection include the accounts and papers of the Castine general store Hook & Witherle and its succeeding configurations from 1808 to 1875.  The store supplied Castine residents and fishermen, acted as a chandlery and expanded to vessel management, international trade and shipbuilding. Records from these endeavors are included.

Want to research the career and fate of a sea captain or coastal or deep sea vessel, or the cargo and crew who shipped aboard a specific ship, our collection of vessel papers, logbooks and account books.  Two notable researchers have made some inroads into the collection:  Col. Frederick Frasier Black published the photographs and brief biographical sketches of  Searsport Sea Captains and Robert Applebee researched vessels built in and sailed from Maine by town and region.
 
There is no charge to use the library and we welcome visitors, local and far flung, to do research in our pleasant reading room.

Galveston Hurricane of 1900

 'KOSSAK', in the Harbor of Galveston after the Hurricane on the 19th and 20th of August in 1886" by Julius Stockfleth

‘KOSSAK’, in the Harbor of Galveston after the Hurricane on the 19th and 20th of August in 1886″ by Julius Stockfleth

By John Golden

On September 8-9, 1900 (Saturday to Sunday), a category 4 hurricane (130-140 mph winds) struck the city of Galveston, Texas. There were 6,000 to 8,000 people killed. It was the worst hurricane to ever strike the United States mainland.

Galveston was cut off from the rest of the country. The highest elevation was 9 feet above sea level. The storm had a 15 foot storm surge which obliterated the city. There was no radio or television, only telephone and telegraph service, neither of which was working after the storm.

The Republican Journal was the local newspaper in the Belfast/ Searsport area and they first reported on the storm in the September 13, 1900 issue with the headline “Galveston Storm Swept” dateline Galveston, Texas, Sept. 10. The initial estimates were 600 to 1,500 lives lost. In a later update from the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Relief Train outside of Galveston, the estimate was changed to “not less than 5,000 and may reach 10,000”. The Journal reported that “on Sunday morning the streets were lined with wounded and half-clad people. Fifteen men, all that remained of a company of 100 soldiers at the beach barracks marched down the street this morning.” The streets on the bay front were fully under 3 feet of water. A third update in the same issue stated that “The loss of life will be upward of 5,000 and that $40,000,000 will no more than cover the damage to property.” It is interesting to note that there were at least 3 updates to the same column in the paper three days after the initial report was received.

The September 20 issue had no additional information about the storm but published a short article entitled “About Galveston.” The article discusses other like disasters in the Gulf specifically a storm in August of 1856 which submerged Last Island off of the southern Louisiana coast. About 200 lives were lost in that storm.

The September 27 issue also had no information about the storm except for a short paragraph about cremation. “The cremation of the victims of the flood at Galveston recalls the fact that during the yellow fever epidemic at New Orleans in 1857 it was found necessary to burn the dead. The deaths numbered for a time some three hundred a day, and internment was impossible.”

October 4 Issue: Short paragraph: “Miss Helen Gould notified the army officials in New York that she would send, at her expense, 50,000 rations to distressed families in Galveston and the hurricane swept district.”

There is also a collection of press dispatches entitled “Freaks of the Galveston Storm.” One dispatch tells of two women who rode a wooden bathtub out into the Gulf of Mexico and returned the following day on the incoming tide. Another story tells of a young boy found at his home after the water had subsided “trying to scrape with his bare hands graves in the sand for his father, mother and sisters.”

A dispatch from The Chicago Times-Herald ran as follows, “Ray Ayers, an 8-year-old boy, unwittingly rescued his sister’s two babies during the flood. He was floating on a raft in Galveston when he passed a box with the two children in it. He seized them, but the weight was too heavy for his raft, and so he placed them on two bales of hay on top of a floating shed. When he found his sister he learned that her children were lost, and when a searching party discovered them they were sleeping, unconscious of their danger.”

October 18 – Mentions that a letter will be published next week from a correspondent “Giving a full and vivid account of the Galveston disaster.”

October 25 – The Red Cross Work in Texas Dateline: October 6, 1900. A letter from a member of Miss Clara Barton’s staff. Conditions were far worse than anticipated and the author failed to write anything for a month due to the overwhelming aid work that needed to be done. She goes on to say that the devastation as described by “yellow” journalists was true. She describes funeral pyres with “bodies stacked like cord-wood, black and white together, irrespective of age, sex or previous condition; when ghouls in human shape prowled cutting off ears and fingers for the jewelry.” At one point the bodies were put on barges and dumped in the ocean only to come back with the tide while attracting large numbers of sharks. She spends some time describing what it must have been like to have “the Gulf of Mexico stealing up into your dooryard.” Galveston’s cemeteries were not spared the devastation. Vaults were stripped of their contents where the floating boxes went out to sea. The Galveston News contained a novel advertisement; “A gentleman desires information concerning a plush covered coffin, containing a corpse, which was found on his premises, on the open prairie, 21 miles distant.” Galveston was a giant pile of kindling wood and scattered bricks. Many were stripped of clothing by the raging wind. She describes a walk where “I counted the remains of nineteen sewing machines within the space of half a block; several pianos, children’s hobby-horses, desks and trunks, now rifled of their contents, shreds of lace curtains and splintered furniture.” She concludes with a description of the many fires at night “each the cremation of human bodies and ruined homes.”

Following this article, there was another article entitled “GALVESTON A MONTH AFTER THE STORM.” Dateline: October 12, 1900. The article, apparently by the same author as the October 6 article, discusses how the people of Galveston first coped with the disaster and now how they are dealing with it on a day to day basis. As the weather turned colder there was a great need for warm clothing. The climate of Galveston is not tropical and there is a need for blankets and outerwear. Most of the remaining population lives in tents or halls or remaining structures with friends and family.

“Clara Barton has submitted plans for a four room cottage that can house 12 people. She believes that she can obtain the materials for approximately $200,000 and that they can be erected at a cost of $50,000.” It was estimated that 4,000 dwellings and their contents were washed away. The author continues by listing the basic materials required for each new dwelling along with items such as bedding, cutlery, stoves, chairs, tables etc.

November 22 – Final hurricane article in the Republican Journal. Dateline: Galveston, Texas, October 5, 1900. The article related how the Red Cross and the City of Galveston took care of the many orphans of the storm. Biographies of the individuals taking care of the children were documented. The article continues with a mention of the upcoming Christmas Holiday and the toys that the children will be receiving. The article ends with a description of how the Red Cross is helping the farmers of the area and how Clara Barton gave one thousand dollars to strawberry growers of the region for plants.

The city eventually recovered and erected a seawall in the bay to protect it against further storms and storm surges.

Old Newspapers as a Historical Source

the-gabble-newspaper-1915-640

By Jon B. Johansen

A number of years ago I was reading a book about the history of pilots on the East Coast of the United States and they mentioned the shipwreck of the packet MEXICO off Hempstead Beach, New York in January 1837. I headed to the Bangor Public Library and searched through issues of the “Bangor Whig & Courier,” for that month. There were several reports from the survivors, rescuers, but more importantly there was one from the pilots, who were blamed for the incident, explaining why they could not get out to the ships waiting to come into the Port of New York. Had the author taken the time to research this disaster in the local newspapers of the day he would have found, and could have written, a much more accurate account of the disaster.

The following is a very brief example of what can be found in old newspapers. This information was documented from the Hancock Gazette (Belfast) for 1827 and comprises more than 83 pages of maritime information when completed.

Ship News

The first item you want to find is a column documenting the ships coming and going from that port and other ports around the country and world. This is usually termed Marine Diary, Marine Intelligence, Ship News or Shipping Intelligence. They will document a vessel’s arrival and departure, the date this occurred and the master. One problem is that usually only the last name of the master is listed and there can be numerous masters with the same last name. Sometimes a paper will include where the vessel hailed from, its cargo and the company involved. In later years the News also recorded launches, disasters, those spoken to at sea and notices to mariners.

Inventions

Once in a while there are notes of new developments. In this paper the first I found was by Captain Thomas Brownell, of New York, who had devised a method for pumping ships at sea by using wind power. Later a small one line statement said, “A pleasure boat that will not sink, called a Life Boat, has been built at Providence.” You will quickly learn that sometimes you end up with more questions than you do answers.

Disasters

People love to read about ship disasters and every year there were hundreds, coupled with a large number of lives lost in terrible tales of suffering. In mid-January news of the Camden schooner JANE, under the command of Capt. Horatio Eaton, had come ashore on Brier Island, dismasted and bottom up. The next week we learned that the Portland brig LIBERATOR, under the command of Capt. Pool, had been wrecked at Cuba in December. In February the schooner NANCY & HANNAH, of Frankfort, had sailed from Darien and in May she had not yet reported. This was her second voyage and her master was Capt. A. Child, of Frankfort. The Sedgwick fishing schooner LIBERTY, Capt. G. W. Cory, was returning when on 1 May they discovered a large brig showing a signal of distress. They attempted to launch their boat and lend assistance, but the conditions prevented any rescue attempt. At the end of April came the loss of the brig ROB ROY on a voyage from Belfast to Quebec on shoals of L’Islet. Two men, three women and 19 children lost their lives. In mid-May the schooner OLIVE BRANCH, Capt. Adams, of and from Bath, struck on the Devil’s Back. Capt. William Thomas of the brig WILLIAM of Portland, arrived in New York after surviving on a wreck for 29 days, the only survivor. Some stories are amazing, one being a man who fell overboard from a steamer on her way from Québec to Montréal. The steamer searched in vain and after a couple of hours continued on her way. When the boat arrived at her dock, the man was standing there, having swam ashore and traveling nine miles. It was reported that the schooner PROOF GLASS, of Boston, had gone on the rocks in the Marsh River, Frankfort mid-June. She bilged and had been raised by means of gondoloes and empty casks. In early October there was a report containing a number of disasters in the West Indies: from Maine was the brig BELUGA, Nason of Kennebunk, drove on a reef and was totally lost; and the schooner WARREN, Perkins of Kennebunk, was totally lost at Guazama, with the mate and all the crew. The schooner GARLAND, Capt. Welch, of Camden, was heading for St. John, New Brunswick, when she wrecked at the mouth of the Kennebec River.

Steamers

Steamboats were in their infancy and had only been running along the coast of Maine for a few years. One of the steamboats running the Maine coast was PATENT, Capt. Cram. One of her stops was at Eastport, but a remark in May was humorous saying, “On her last trip to Eastport she came into the harbor but left without giving any notice of her arrival, leaving several passengers, who had been waiting two or three days for her arrival, at the Eagle Hotel. A little more attention on the part of the managers would be of service both to travelers and the steamboat line.” A month late there was mention of PATET having in tow a new steamboat just launched at Castine. The new vessel was heading to Boston to have her machinery installed. This is the 99-ton steamer HANCOCK, which survived only seven years. Another account tells of the first significant vessel on Moosehead Lake, named DESPATCH. She was launched at Haskeltown on 7 September. The article tells that she had been built by Isaac Cowan, Jr. of Sidney and was 36 feet on the keel with an 11 foot beam. What the article does not say was how she was powered.

Sea Serpent

Accounts of the sea serpent have captured the interest of many over the years. The first account was documented in June 1793 by Capt. Crabtree of Frenchman’s Bay. There were accounts of sea serpent sighting in 1827. One account came from Irish newspapers when QUÉBECK TRADE, off the South Islands of Arran, in February sent a boat to a drifting wreck when they saw a serpent lying coiled up on the deck. Capt. David Thurlow, Jr. of the schooner LYDIA of Deer Isle had an encounter with the sea serpent. They were off Mount Desert Rock when a serpent came up alongside his small boat. Thurlow had a harpoon on board and he struck the serpent with it.

Births, Marriage and Died

It may seem to be beyond the scope of a maritime researcher, but one will find people who have maritime ties. During 1827 under the heading of “Married” we find Capt. Paul R. Hazeltine and Miss Caroline Longfellow and Capt. James Young and Miss Sarah Jane McCrillis tying the knot.

Under “Died” there are numerous maritime connections. During the year we note the loss of Captain Nathaniel Eells, Capt. Zebedee Eells, Capt. John B. Perkins, Capt. Calvin Waterman, Capt. Eben Perkins, and Capt. Calvin Curtis. Then there are seamen lost or dying at sea. On board the schooner SUSSEX, it was learned that Asa Ficket jumped overboard. At the Magdalin Islands, Capt. Francis Antone and Mr. Thomas M’Daniel from the schooner RANGER of Lubec were drowned. Later in the year the passing of Aaron Goodwin of Parsonfield, who had served on board the BON HOMME RICHARD during her battle with the SERAPIS was listed.

Naval

Our Navy was still evolving in 1827. Many naval commanders had made a name for themselves during the War of 1812 and there were others working their way up through the ranks. One of these officers was Capt. John Percival of West Barnstable, MA, better known as “Mad Jack.” Early in January news reached readers of an outrage committed by the crew of the U. S. Naval schooner DOLPHIN, under the command of Lieut. Percival in the Sandwich Islands. Later Lieut. Percival was tried in the Circuit Court of the United States and acquitted.

The United States Navy was also cruising the Pacific Ocean protecting the country’s whaling fleet. The Sloop-of-War PEACOCK was cruising the islands, and this cruise was detailed in a letter. Returning from the Pacific was the frigate UNITED STATES, Commodore Isaac Hull., after more than three years at sea. She brought home the two only survivors from the mutiny on board the whale ship GLOBE of Nantucket.

There was a major conflict underway in the Mediterranean between Austria, Egypt, Greece and Turkey and trying to quell the issue were the British, French and Russians. The American people had heard about the suffering of the Greeks and had collected provisions, which were sent to them in a number of vessels. The British admiral, Lord Cochrane, who is said to be the person who influenced the fictional character Horatio Hornblower, was assisting the Greeks. In October a major engagement was fought with the complete destruction of the Egyptian and Turkish fleet by the British, French and Russian fleets under the command of Vice Admiral Codrington at Navarino. Of the 66 Turkish vessels only eight were still afloat at the end of the engagement and they had lost upwards of 3,000 men.

Crime

Crimes on the high seas during this period of time were common. The first reference to pirates came in January with the announcement of the up-coming execution of Merchant and Colson in Boston.

The schooner AMERICA, Capt. Darius Dickey, had left Cohasset, MA for Northport when on 22 July an attack and taken place on board the vessel. Crew member James Newcomb had gone forward to take down the foresail when he was attacked by John McDonnell with an ax. The captain was at the helm at the time and heard three very heavy thuds. He walked forward to see what it was and he was hit in the head with an ax. The captain got a hold of McDonnell’s legs and knocked him to the deck and tied him up. The vessel later arrived at Northport and the captain’s wounds were treated, but he did not think Newcomb would recover.

The major crime for this year was committed on board the brigantine CRAWFORD under the command of Captain Henry Brightman, on a voyage from Matanzas to New York. Among the eight passengers on board were four men who on 1 June attacked the crew and the other passengers. In the end only three men were left, the cook, a passenger and the mate. The mate was allowed to live so he could assist the mutineers in navigating the vessel to their destination in Europe. First they needed provisions and sailed for the Capes of Virginia where they were boarded by a pilot. The mate was ordered to put the boat over and as soon as she hit the water he sculled for shore. Once on shore he told officials what had happened on board the vessel and they headed out to CRAWFORD. As they neared the vessel they were informed that the ringleader Tardy had cut his throat. The three other mutineers, all Spanish, had made their way to shore, but were apprehended soon after. These men were tried, convicted and executed in Richmond, VA.

Fisheries

One of the major industries of the coast of Maine is its fisheries. Within the Marine List there are times when the vessels were listed as one a fishing voyage as well as how much they caught.

There were a number of other fishing references. In June a 50-foot whale was spotted off the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and after a pursuit of several hours was captured. A Col. Decatur said that he thought this was the sea serpent.

There was a reference in one issue saying that since 1819 fifteen cargoes of seal skins from the Antarctic region had arrived at Stonington, Connecticut. This is an interesting story and if you would like to read more about it get the book “Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer,” by John Spears. At the age of 19 Capt. Palmer sailed in a sloop from Stonington to the southern Atlantic Ocean and while looking for sealing grounds discovered islands just north of Antarctica. In fact, part of Antarctica is named for Palmer, who made several voyages there.

Advertisements

Do not forget to look through the advertisements as they might contain information not found elsewhere. Usually you will find advertisements for voyages, vessels for sale, marine services and auctions. One thing is usually the full name, or at least the first initial, of the master of a vessel, is used and that can be helpful.

When reading through these newspapers, most will be amazed at the amount of information they contain. The above just scratches the details found. However, there is no question there can be problems associated with newspaper articles. The most important would be that journalists at times were not known for their accuracy. Articles were put together quickly and sometimes they used unreliable sources. Fortunately, most errors are corrected in later issues or in another paper. Despite these the problems newspapers are an extremely valuable resource for the maritime historian.